When Chief Justice Roberts first sat on the Court on October 3, 2005 in IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, he spoke twenty-four times and his first question appeared on page 15 of the transcript. Following that question, he went back and forth with Carter Phillips, a man with whom the Chief Justice was already acquainted, for several pages. It is possible that the Chief Justice’s familiarity with the three advocates (Tom Goldstein, Irv Gornstein, and Phillip) in IBP made that setting a more comfortable one for a justice hearing their first oral argument.
By contrast, when Justice Alito first sat on the Court on February 21, 2006 in Rapanos v. United States and he asked a single question. His only question appeared on page 5.
Similarly, Justice Sotomayor spoke only four times today during her first oral argument on the Supreme Court. Her first question came on page 24 and she went back and forth with former Solicitor General Ted Olson with a few lengthy questions.